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The Quirky Story of how Presidents Came to Pardon Turkeys

Hot Topics | November 25th, 2020

George H.W. Bush may have been the first US president to formally pardon a turkey, but the origins of this fun annual tradition go back to the late 19th century when gifting a turkey to the president became a national symbol of good cheer. Throughout the middle of the 20th century, various presidents sent their turkey gifts to live at nearby zoos or farms, before Bush 41 started the annual tradition in 1989. 

We are thankful for you, our dear readers, as well as the journalists whose reporting provided this week’s headlines:

Expect science to rule the day

  • Joe Biden’s transition team has advised the president-elect to allow career scientists rather than political appointees to take on the role of updating the public on the pandemic. Celine Gounder, a Biden task force member and infectious diseases specialist told STAT: “It may not be exciting in a sexy TV way, but it’s exciting to me that this is a return to science.” Scientists who may be tapped for these briefings include Nancy Messonnier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) respiratory disease chief and Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director (STATPOLITICO)

All industry eyes on Biden

  • On Friday, President Trump announced a “most favored nation” rule that would tie the price of drugs offered under Medicare Part B to lower prices in other developed countries. The Trump administration bypassed the normal policymaking process, which leaves the rule open to legal challenges from the pharmaceutical industry. Ultimately, it will be up to the Biden administration to finalize or not finalize the rule, which is why some this policy as a bargaining chip that President-elect Biden could use to negotiate with the industry. (The Washington Post)

A Thanksgiving like no other

  • Various government officials have issued a number of warnings and recommendations this week intended to help Americans celebrate Thanksgiving safely amid the ongoing pandemic. On Monday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Americans to avoid indoor holiday celebrations with people outside of their immediate household. The White House coronavirus task force issued its own warning, saying the “aggressive, rapid, and expanding” spread of COVID-19 requires a “significant behavior change” from Americans. (The HillThe Hill)

The priorities and perils of a COVID-19 vaccine

  • Priorities: The CDC is expected to move essential works ahead of older adults and people with high-risk medical conditions on the COVID-19 vaccine priority list, reflect how Black and Latino essential workers have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. (STAT) Once a COVID-19 vaccine candidate receives emergency authorization, the first doses could be injected within 48 hours. (The Hill)
  • Perils: Some health officials are worried they do not have enough money, guidance and appropriate facilities to store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Once a vial of Pfizer’s vaccine is thawed and diluted, it must be used within six hours. Rural counties where population is sparse may not be able to administer a full shipment of the vaccine. Maryland estimates up to 5% of the vaccine the state is allotted could spoil and go unused. (POLITICO)

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